Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was cleared today by a Jerusalem court of accepting bribes from Morris Talansky, an American businessman.
Olmert, left, had been charged with taking $600,000 from Talansky from 1993 to 2005.
He was also cleared of fraud for allegedly stealing state funds by double billing trip expenses. Olmert was convicted on a lesser count of breach of public trust on a charge unrelated to Talansky,
Israeli prosecutors said Long Island-based Talansky gave Olmert money that was used as a secret fund. In return, they charged, Olmert helped Talansky with business deals in Israel and elsewhere.
Olmert allegedly sent letters on Talansky’s behalf to Sheldon Adelson, Yitzhak Teshuva, and others. Adelson is the chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands. It disclosed in March an investigation by U.S. authorities into possible FCPA violations.
Although ‘Olmert act[ed] in a way that implicated issues of conflict of interest,’ the court found ‘no real evidence that Olmert had used his powers as a public servant to obtain anything inappropriate for Talansky,’ the Jerusalem Post said.
Olmert was prime minister for three years. Because of the corruption scandals, he resigned in early 2009. He may still be tried for corruption related to property development in Jerusalem.
He has denied any wrongdoing.
Talansky testified in Israel that he gave about $150,000 in cash to Olmert before he became prime minister. Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003. He also served as a cabinet minister before leading the government.
Talansky said he never asked for or received any political favors in exchange for the gifts. He hasn’t been charged in the case in Israel.
In January 2009, New York magazine said Talansky, now 78, could face FCPA charges. ‘FBI agents are flying all over the place,’ the magazine reported. ‘And U.S. investigators are now using the testimony he gave in Israel as a road map to a possible prosecution.’ A federal grand jury sitting in New York City was also reportedly looking into possible tax and money-laundering offenses.
Talansky hasn’t been charged in the U.S.